According to Brooks Baseball, Rick Porcello has thrown a slider 1,691 times in his career. In September, Michael Barr of FanGraphs advised Porcello to “stop throwing that,” given that their pitch weights metric assigns his slider the worst rating of any of his pitches, a -1.48 for his career. In his outing Wednesday, he did abandon the pitch to focus on his curveball.
Rick Porcello has abandoned his slider–at least for now. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
“Right now, I’m just working on one breaking ball,” Porcello told Jason Beck after the game. “Just working on getting the command of one and establishing that, and we’ll go from there.”
Porcello has tried to get the slider to work for four years, with the thinking that using that as a third pitch would complement his primary option, the sinker, well. According to STATS LCC, though, the slider landed for a hit nearly half the time batters put it in play last year. Further, the whiff rates on his curve and slider were almost the same.
Perhaps numbers like that led to former Tiger catcher Gerald Laird’s recommendation Wednesday that Porcello should choose one breaking pitch and master it. That brings us to his curve, which he has thrown just 381 times during his career according to Brooks Baseball.
John Lowe of The Detroit Free Press took note of the curve Porcello used in the first inning Wednesday to strike out Dan Uggla looking with a full count. If he can focus on that pitch, at least for now, and master it, it could be a turning point in his career. In 2012, in very limited use, the pitch generated a 1.14 rating from FanGraphs, the best of his repertoire. Also according to FanGraphs, opponents hit .394 off the slider to .250 off the curve.
His ditching the slider is certainly an interesting development. If Porcello can sharpen his curve and make it a regular part of his repertoire (and soon), it could not only help him keep his starting job, but it also may take his career to the level we expected it to go four years ago.